If you’re looking for an easy walk or place to explore close to Seattle that includes an incredible waterfall- look no further. At only 35 minutes drive from downtown and nestled in the cute community of Snoqualmie- this makes for an excellent half day excursion from the city or a quick stop if you are heading out to some of the nearby national parks.
About Snoqualmie Falls
The falls are named after the Snoqualmie People, who have lived for centuries in the Snoqualmie Valley. They used the area as a traditional burial site and view the falls as “the place where First Woman and First Man were created by Moon the Transformer” and “where prayers were carried up to the Creator by great mists that rise from the powerful flow.”
In addition to being a powerful and beautiful waterfall at 268 feet, the water serves 2 energy plants below the falls that then serve about 1% of the energy sold by Puget Sound Energy who operates the plants. The first plant built in 1899 at the very base of the falls was the world’s first completely underground power plant and is buried 270 below the bottom.
The falls and surrounding park area belong now to the Snoqualmie tribe who have protected from over development. You’ll find 2 viewing decks, walking trails, gift shops, restrooms, and the Salish Lodge/ Restaurant at the falls.
*Note: Currently due to COVID-19 the lower deck and trails are closed to the public. Only the upper viewing deck and area are open to visitors.
From Seattle, follow I-90 E and take exit 25 for Snoqualmie Pkwy. Once you are pulling up to the parking lots, you’ll pull under a small pedestrian bridge and see a small parking lot on the left and a driveway to another parking area on the right. The parking lot on the left charges $7- save your money. Turn right into the large and FREE parking lot where there is usually ample parking. (We visited on a Saturday in August in the afternoon and there were loads of places to park a bit further in the back)
If you park in the parking lot on the right, you will take the pedestrian foot bridge over to the park. The bridge includes interesting facts about the building of the power plants.
Once off the bridge you’ll see turn offs to go to the Salish lodge but if you continue straight ahead and slightly to the right you will come across the falls. (walking time from the upper parking lot is less than 5 minutes)
Hiking around the Falls:
The falls were really incredible to see and each time we got to a new view point as we headed lower we unveiled more of a view of them. While I can only imagine the power coming off the falls in times of high rain (some of the photos of the falls look like a completely different waterfall due to volume) the falls in a drier August are still definitely worth the trek out.
We spent some time wandering around the different viewing decks and meandering down the path that leads to the lower park and deck. Since those were closed however, we did not take the trail the whole way down. If you are interested in hiking from the upper park to the lower or vice versa, the trail stats are:
Distance: ~0.75 miles each way
Elevation change: 370 feet
We checked out the gift shop ( I have a magnet addiction) and headed on our way with the whole stop at the falls only taking around 40 minutes. We then headed out to check out the nearby cute towns and outlets as we continued our trek East.
1. Northwest Railway Museum – There’s also numerous fun little train photo ops in between Snoqualmie and North Bend.
2. Three Forks Natural Area- more great parks to stretch your legs and get water views
3. Outlets in North Bend – Worth a visit if you want to check out a Pendleton store as part of your PNW bucketlist.
Whether you are just going for a short trip from Seattle, or heading out on a roadtrip to the National Parks, Snoqualmie is an excellent spot for as quick a stop as you want! Let me know in the comments if you’ve been or hope to see these falls someday!